News Release: August 29, 2002

Posted on Aug 29, 2002 in 2002 News Releases, News-Releases

NR02-16 August 29, 2002

State Veterinarian Issues Advisory on West Nile Virus Regarding Domestic Animals in Hawaii

Honolulu – The state veterinarian, James M. Foppoli, has issued an informational advisory on the status of the West Nile virus as it pertains to domestic animals in Hawaii. (The full text of the advisory is attached.)

West Nile virus has been identified in 41 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces with the pattern of advance consistent with the movement of migratory and wild birds. It has not been detected in Hawaii. The virus is transmitted only by mosquitoes and is primarily a wild-bird disease, but other birds, horses and humans may be also infected. It is important to emphasize that West Nile virus is not a communicable disease: it cannot be transmitted from person-to-person or animal-to-person – mosquitoes are the essential vector.

The state veterinarian is asking Hawaii horse owners to watch their horses for symptoms of West Nile infection which include ataxia (weakness, stumbling, staggering, wobbly gait, and incoordination), inability to stand, hind limb paralysis, coma or death. Most infected horses will not show clinical signs of the disease; however, some horses may suffer from equine meningitis and/or encephalitis which may be fatal. Horse owners are encouraged to consult with their veterinarians on the merits of vaccination against the virus.

The disease has not proven to be a significant disease in poultry and is unlikely to have an impact on the state’s poultry industry. There have been only a few reports of West Nile virus infection of pet birds, but all bird species should be considered susceptible. Cases of the virus in dogs and cats are expected to be rare.

HDOA has been working with other state and federal departments on methods of surveillance for the virus and to develop methods to lessen the likelihood of virus introduction into the state. The same methods of mosquito control that were recommended for Dengue virus control are also recommended for West Nile virus. It is still good practice to remove standing water where mosquitoes lay their eggs.

For more information on West Nile virus as it pertains to animals, call HDOA at 973-9560. For information on West Nile virus as it pertains to humans, please contact the State Department of Health, Epidemiology Branch or Vector Control Branch.